"Here most of us are poor. Mil Milagros has given us things that we never imagined [we would be able to have] like delicious food, the Santillana text books, meetings with other schools and things for my school like a playground. Thank you, Mil Milagros."
~Mil Milagros student
Mil Milagros partners with local community and school leaders – parents and teachers – to execute its five-part program:
- high-quality nutritious meals and snacks, prepared by mothers who receive on-going training;
- educational materials including text books and school supplies;
- health and hygiene care and supplies;
- leadership development among children, their mothers, and teachers; and
- measurement of program impact.
MM staff work with each partner school to design and implement strategies for improving the children’s nutrition, health, hygiene and education. To build local capacity and ownership, the children’s mothers and grandmothers plan and execute the menus, with input from the children who are also responsible for bringing their own plates and utensils to school, along with firewood for the stoves.
MM has developed student leadership councils – five boys and five girls from each school – to help oversee the program. The student councils conduct community needs assessments to identify special projects and advocate for their peers, schools and communities.
To prevent the onset of chronic malnutrition, Mil Milagros has partnered with Wuqu’ Kawoq, an NGO with expertise in the prevention of chronic malnutrition and health care in Guatemala, to implement a pilot supplemental infant and toddler feeding program in two of our partner schools/communities (Chutinamit and Chichimuch).
Our program leads to healthier children, more attentive and engaged students, and improved rates of school attendance, retention and promotion:
“It is important that we get lunch at school because most of the time there is nothing to eat at home.” ~Proyecto Semilla Student
Nutrition and School Attendance
- 95% of Mil Milagros’ 6th graders graduated primary school in 2011 (while the national average is 30%).
- Over 850 school-age children are benefiting from nutritious snacks and hot meals every school day.
- Over 150 mothers and grandmothers have been trained in nutrition and meal preparation. Nearly 360 mothers and grandmothers volunteer with Mil Milagros, preparing the snacks and meals each day.
- Overall, school attendance has improved by 95%.
- Student youth councils are established at each partner school and are actively engaged in helping to guide the program and advocate for their communities.
- Families report that the program significantly helped the family budget. The average annual family income of the children served by Mil Milagros is $1,200 – with an average family size of six.
- Mil Milagros receives consistent feedback about the benefit of the program to the local economies in the communities where schools are located. The schools are encouraged to use Mil Milagros funds to purchase the food, health and hygiene supplies, books and school materials from local businesses and co-ops. When possible, purchases are made directly from the children’s families, including vegetables, chicken, eggs and tortillas.
- Some schools have already begun looking into small productive projects to ensure sustainability of the program. For instance, Chichimuch school was able to secure a small grant for implementing a chicken raising project, proceeds from which would help local families as well as fund some aspects of the Mil Milagros program.
“Before the (MM) program started, many children did not brush their teeth at home either because they did not remember or because many families do not have money to buy toothpaste.”~Volunteer doctor
Health and Hygiene
- All school-aged children have begun to develop good hygiene habits, not just in school, but also in their homes. Without Mil Milagros most of the children would never brush their teeth. The pediatricians who saw the children were particularly alarmed by the children’s dental health. In the US, many of these children would be hospitalized.
- Many children learned to use toilet paper for the first time.
- The incidence of lice has been significantly diminished in each of our partner schools.
- In early 2010, Tropical Storm Agatha and the subsquent heavy rainfall severley affected the village of Chutinamit, forcing its inhabitants to relocate after the government declared the land inhabitable. Residents are now living in tents and makeshift shelters on a small piece of land about 4km way from the original location of their village. There is no electricity or running water and residents have little access to other communities. Mil Milagros was able to raise enough money to rent out two classrooms in the local school so that classes and the school meals could continue. The mothers were also able to build a small kitchen in one of the temporary shelters so they could continue to cook for the children and the community.
Other Supports and Materials
- Mil Milagros engaged volunteers in the Boston area to raise funds, collect clothing for children and babies, and gather school supplies, books and hygiene supplies. Among these efforts, Board member Jill Takacs was able to get her church, the United Church in Walpole, to donate sweatshirts, hats, gloves and socks for the 40 children and infants of Chutinamit, which were brought down by the Mil Milagros Boston team during their trip to Guatemala in November.
The goal of Mil Milagros, Inc.™ is to ensure that all children in Guatemala graduate from sixth grade healthy, literate and prepared to continue their education. USAID reports that only 30% of children complete sixth grade. Guatemala has the sixth highest rate of child malnutrition in the world; fifty percent of the children are malnourished. In some Mayan communities, the rate of malnutrition exceeds 90%.